Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

Fast food restaurants are renowned for their accessibility and low prices, but they are not often thought of as places to dine well. However, many fast food restaurants have worked to offer healthier menu alternatives recently in an effort to appeal to customers who want to make better dietary decisions.

Cheerful waitress wearing apron serving customer at counter in restaurant

It can be challenging to comprehend what makes a fast food establishment healthy.

Although the criteria used to identify the healthiest fast food establishments can vary, generally speaking, elements like the utilization of fresh, whole products, minimal levels of sodium and saturated fat, and a wide range of menu alternatives are significant.

This article will discuss the top fast food joints with the cleanest menu options and offer advice on how to choose healthy meals at these eateries.

There are methods to choose healthier options in fast food places, regardless of whether you’re pressed for time or seeking a quick lunch option.

Understanding Fast Food

A sort of food known as fast food is one that is swiftly made and served.

fast food and unhealthy eating concept

It often contains little nutritional value and is heavy in calories, fat, salt, and sugar.

Fast food restaurants feature drive-through windows and quick-service counters to make them convenient and simple to find.

Fast food is frequently criticized for its detrimental effects on health because it is linked to obesity, heart disease, and other conditions.

Fast food, though, is not all created equal. Fast food establishments occasionally have salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, and fruit cups as healthier options.

Consider the nutritional value of the meal you are ordering while making a fast food selection.

Now that nutrition information is widely available, you can make educated decisions at many fast food establishments.

To cut down on the number of calories and fat in your meal, you can also request changes to your order, such leaving out the cheese or mayo.

The following advice can help you choose healthier fast food options:

  • Choose grilled or baked items instead of fried
  • Opt for smaller portions or share a meal with a friend
  • Choose water or unsweetened tea instead of soda or other sugary drinks
  • Choose salads or other vegetable-based options
  • Avoid items that are high in calories, fat, salt, and sugar, such as burgers, fries, and milkshakes

You can consume fast food in moderation without jeopardizing your health by exercising conscious eating and making informed decisions.

Criteria for Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

There are a few standards you should keep in mind when searching for healthy fast food options. Here are some things to think about:

A woman orders food in the touch screen terminal with electronic menu in fast food restaurant

Menu options

A healthy fast food outlet should have a selection of menu items that are high in protein, fiber, and other necessary nutrients while being low in calories, fat, and sodium.

Avoid fried dishes and opt instead for grilled or baked options. There may be vegetarian or vegan menu selections at some establishments.

Nutritional information

For each item on its menu, a healthy fast food joint should provide detailed and precise nutritional information.

Included in this data should include each item’s calorie, fat, salt, and other nutritional content.

It should also be simple to find, either on the restaurant’s website or at the actual establishment.

Ingredient quality

High-quality, natural, minimally processed foods should be used in a healthy fast food establishment.

Avoid eating at restaurants that use artificial preservatives, flavors, or colors and seek out those that use organic or locally produced ingredients.

Portion sizes

Reasonable portion sizes that are suitable for a single meal should be available at a healthy fast food establishment.

To lower your overall calorie intake, seek out eateries that provide smaller portion sizes or allow you to personalize your order.

Health certifications

According to respectable organizations like the American Heart Association or the National Restaurant Association’s “Kids LiveWell” program, some fast food businesses may receive health certifications or endorsements.

These accreditations might serve as a reliable sign of a restaurant’s dedication to offering healthy options.

You can choose a healthy fast food restaurant with confidence if you have these factors in mind.

Top Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

Although there are still some excellent options available when it comes to fast food, there may not seem to be many healthy options.

People Order Kentucky Fried Chicken In Fast-Food Restaurant.

Here are the top fast food establishments that serve wholesome and delectable meals.


Fresh ingredients and personalized sandwiches are two of Subway’s trademarks.

The Fresh Fit menu is only one of the low-fat and low-calorie options they provide.

The sandwich is a terrific alternative for vegetarians and vegans because you can add a variety of vegetables to it.

In addition, Subway provides wholesome and filling salads and soups.


A fast food restaurant chain that specialized in Mexican food is called Chipotle.

They provide a number of options for people with dietary restrictions and only use fresh, high-quality products.

Burritos, bowls, and salads at Chipotle may all be customized. A range of proteins are available, including tofu, beef, and grilled chicken.

They also provide a selection of nutritious toppings, like guacamole, black beans, and fajita veggies.

Panera Bread

A chain of bakeries and cafes called Panera Bread provides a number of nutritious options.

They cater to people with dietary restrictions and use high-quality, fresh ingredients. Soups, salads, and sandwiches are among Panera Bread’s specialties.

They also provide a selection of nutritious beverages like smoothies and teas.


There are several healthy options available at the coffee shop chain Starbucks.

They cater to customers with dietary restrictions and use high-quality ingredients, using a number of options.

Breakfast sandwiches, oats, and salads are popular items at Starbucks. Several nutritious beverages are also available, including teas and smoothies.

Noodles & Company

A fast-casual restaurant with a focus on noodles is called Noodles & Company.

They cater to people with dietary restrictions and use high-quality, fresh ingredients.

The customized noodles recipes offered by Noodles & Company, such as pad Thai and spaghetti and meatballs, are well-known.

They also provide a selection of nutritious salads and soups.

Overall, for individuals who prefer to consume wholesome meals on the fly, these fast food establishments provide a variety of delicious and healthy selections.

You may enjoy fast food without sacrificing your health if you choose these establishments.

Healthiest Menu Options

It’s crucial to choose fast food meals that are high in protein and fiber and low in calories, saturated fat, and sodium when making a healthy meal selection.

Burger King at Incheon International Airport.

Some of the healthiest menu items offered by well-known fast food chains are listed below:


For people who want a nutritious meal on the fly, Chipotle is a fantastic choice.

Their salad bowls are a terrific option because you may add a variety of nutritious foods to create a unique lunch.

Choose a protein that is made of chicken or tofu, then pile on the vegetables (like fajitas and salsa) and beans for extra fiber.


A selection of low-calorie sandwich alternatives are available from Subway, including their 6-inch Turkey Breast sandwich, which has just 280 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.

For more fiber and nutrients, consume a lot of vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers.

Panera Bread

You Pick Two, a menu choice that lets you select two half pieces of soup, salad, or a sandwich, is one of Panera Bread’s well-known healthy menu alternatives.

Choose a salad with grilled chicken and a low-fat dressing or, for a high-fiber, low-calorie choice, try their black bean soup.


The Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap, one of many grilled chicken alternatives available at Chick-fil-A, has just 350 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Consume a lot of vegetables, such as lettuce and tomatoes, to get more nutrients.


With just 470 calories and a ton of protein and fiber, Wendy’s Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad is one of several healthy options available.

To add taste without adding calories, choose a low-fat dressing like their Lemon Garlic Caesar dressing.

Always remember to study the nutrition facts before selecting a healthy meal at a fast food restaurant and to opt for dishes that are high in protein and fiber and low in calories, saturated fat, and sodium.

Healthy Fast Food Eating Tips

Your health doesn’t have to suffer when you eat fast food. You may choose healthier options at your preferred fast food places by following a few easy suggestions.

Row of order desks with computer screen and card payment terminal in fast food restaurant

1. Check the Nutrition Information

Check the nutrition facts for the menu items you are thinking about ordering before placing your order.

This information is typically available in-person or on the websites of fast food establishments.

Try to find foods that are lower in sodium, saturated fat, and calories.

2. Choose Grilled or Baked Options

Fried foods frequently contain a lot of calories and bad fats. Pick baked or grilled food alternatives instead.

Consider choosing a grilled chicken sandwich rather than a fried chicken sandwich, for instance.

3. Watch Your Portions

Fast food quantities frequently exceed suggested serving sizes. Take into account sharing a meal with a friend or freezing half of it for later.

4. Skip the Extras

Calories and sodium can be increased by adding extra toppings and condiments.

Avoid the bacon, cheese, and creamy sauces. Instead, pick dishes that include lean protein and vegetables.

5. Choose Water or Unsweetened Beverages

Sugar and calorie content are significant in sodas and sweetened beverages. Instead, go for unsweetened beverages or water.

You can choose healthier fast food by adhering to these suggestions. Always exercise moderation.

When eaten in moderation and with the appropriate decisions, fast food may be a component of a balanced diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Working in kitchen of modern fast food restaurant.

What are the healthiest fast food restaurants?

According to Forbes Health, some of the healthiest fast food restaurants in 2023 include Panera Bread, Chipotle, Subway, and Sweetgreen. These restaurants offer a variety of fresh, whole-food options that are lower in calories, saturated fat, and sodium than traditional fast food fare.

Are there healthy options at traditional fast food chains?

Yes, many traditional fast food chains have introduced healthier options to their menus in recent years. For example, McDonald’s now offers salads, fruit cups, and grilled chicken sandwiches. Wendy’s has a variety of salads and baked potatoes. However, it’s important to read the nutrition information carefully, as some seemingly healthy options can be high in calories, sodium, and unhealthy fats.

How can I make healthier choices at fast food restaurants?

One way to make healthier choices at fast food restaurants is to look for options that are grilled or baked instead of fried. Choose salads with lots of vegetables and lean protein, and opt for dressings on the side. Avoid sugary drinks and instead choose water or unsweetened tea. If you’re watching your sodium intake, ask for your meal to be prepared without added salt.

Can fast food be a part of a healthy diet?

Yes, fast food can be a part of a healthy diet if you make smart choices. It’s important to balance your fast food meals with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein from other sources. Don’t make fast food a regular part of your diet, but if you’re in a rush or on the go, there are healthy options available.

Friendly young female worker serving customer with smile at shawarma place

Key Takeaways

  • Fast food restaurants are making efforts to provide healthier menu options.
  • Criteria for determining the healthiest fast food restaurants include fresh, whole ingredients, low levels of sodium and saturated fat, and a variety of menu options.
  • Making healthy choices at fast food establishments is possible with the right tips and knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.